The purpose of higher education
Prior to examining the effects of higher education on a living wage we turn first to the purpose of higher education. There is today much discussion as to what the purpose of higher education should be but there is little doubt that the purpose of higher education today is limited to preparing the student for the global marketplace.
Traditional notions of the purpose of the university, imbued with ambiguous aims and including knowledge generation and service to society, have been scrutinized and transformed into neoliberal objectives that are more easily articulated for policymakers (Weick, 1976/2000; Pfeffer, 1977/2000; Cohen & March, 1986/2000; Kezar, 2005; Fallis, 2008). (Repoliticizing Higher Education Assessment within Neoliberal Globalization Hursh, David; Wall, Andrew F. – Policy Futures in Education, 2011)
Public education was founded with the intent purpose of preparing a workforce for the 20th century industrial workforce. http://www.mantecabulletin.com/section/1/article/127688/
The burden of higher education
If the purpose of higher education is a de-facto preparation for competition in the global market then the costs for this preparation should be viewed as a development in favor of competition in the global marketplace. When viewed as a development in favor of competition in the global marketplace it begs the question: “Who are the beneficiaries of higher education?” There is little doubt that the student gains knowledge but that seems to be of little consequence except when he applies that knowledge to the workplace.
I suggest that in today’s workaday world the beneficiary of higher education is the capitalist. This is borne out by the all too often publicized unequal distribution of income and the plight of society’s middle-class. It follows that the burden of higher education should be placed squarely on those who profit most but not on the student and potential worker or the struggling families thereof.
President Obama has already proposed that all community colleges be tuition free. At least one 2016 presidential candidate is proposing that all public education be tuition free. The resistance to these proposals comes from those who benefit most from our public education system. It may be, that in the future this resistance will ease when the benefit of an inclusive workforce to business is fully assessed.
For the worker today there is little time to consider the purpose of or who should bear the burden of the cost of education. What the worker must know is that their quest for a living wage is dependent on the preparation required to do the task at hand. Still, they must look to the future when possible and involve themselves in the political process. The worker should consider voting a duty of citizenship and a means to support those issues that are meaningful to their living wage.